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Archive for March, 2010

Don’t forget to count the Omer with Homer

Posted by rabbiart on March 29, 2010

Technically, counting the Omer is one forty nine day long mitzvah.  According to one interpretation of the traditional halachah, once you miss a day in the count, you can no longer fulfill the mitzvah.  You can still count the Omer each night, but you omit saying the b’rachah.  To get a really good Omer calendar that will delight children of all ages, visit http://homer.jvibe.com/Welcome.html and print a week at a time for full color

Or to print the more condensed version, go here http://homer.jvibe.com/HomerCalendar2010.pdf

Everyone counts, so count.

Hag Kasher V’Same’ach

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Pesach Countdown – More youtubes to enjoy

Posted by rabbiart on March 20, 2010

Pesach Ba ( פסח בה) Pesach is Coming This one is all in Hebrew. Listen carefully after the three minute mark and you’ll hear the singers say “we are all drunk.” At the four minute mark there is a really cute picture of a baby with a matzah bib (looks like matzah, not made out of matzah).

Let My People Go  in a nice bluesy style. Especially good for those who like Pesach tunes and love the blues.

The JibJab Matzah Rap Don’t watch this one without your sense of humor.

Who Let the Jews Out Guaranteed to crack you up!

Let My People Grow Pesach as a relationship breakup.

Matzo Man Its the Pesach Matzah disco classic.

The Four Sons – a prequel As the description says – Ever wonder how the fours sons got to be the way they are?

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Parshat VaYikra – Digging Deep for Meaning

Posted by rabbiart on March 19, 2010

Details! You want details? VaYikra’s got details. Even the details have details. Outmoded? Anachronistic? VaYikra has it all. And yet…

VaYikra has meaning. Consider verses two and three:

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, אָדָם כִּי-יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן, לַיהוָה–מִן-הַבְּהֵמָה, מִן-הַבָּקָר וּמִן-הַצֹּאן, תַּקְרִיבוּ, אֶת-קָרְבַּנְכֶם.אִם-עֹלָה קָרְבָּנוֹ מִן-הַבָּקָר, זָכָר תָּמִים יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ; אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, יַקְרִיב אֹתוֹ, לִרְצֹנוֹ, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה.

Talk to the Israelites and tell them about bringing an offering to HaShem, from the cattle, the herd or the flock. For a burnt-offering, an unblemished male, brought to the Meeting Tent doorway, to be accepted before HaShem.

I deliberately played fast and loose with the translation to preserve the opportunity to look at two key words in these verses.  The first is ki-yakreev (כִּי-יַקְרִיב )  and the second is l’rtzono (לִרְצֹנוֹ).

The Hebrew word ki can be translated as “if”, “when” or even “because”.  “Because” does not seem appropriate in this context, but the verse could be read as either “when” an offering is brought, or “if” an offering is brought.  Two words, six letters, and a world of difference.

Are sacrifices and their modern equivalent – prayers – voluntary or commanded? Do we live in a world of “if” we give up something valuable to HaShem (or for the agnostics and Richard Dawkins – for the greater good).  That would mean we are choosing to believe that the world is designed for us to put the emphasis on ourselves. “If” we sacrifice implies that we might not.  Translating ki as “when” implies that – of course we recognize that the world does not revolve around us, but that we have obligations to the greater good, however we might define that.  We know from our sources and tradition that ki can only make sense to translate as “when” we act in non-self-centered ways.   Pity the world and pity anyone who thinks that this is a matter of “if”.

In verse three we find the word l’rtzono.  Depending on the translation you consult, this word is rendered as merely referring to willingly bringing the sacrifice, or translated as the sacrifice – or the person bringing it – is accepted by HaShem.  Understanding it as a combination of all three gives us a peek at the way the world is designed, and the way we should understand that design.

The world is designed to work best when we willingly give up some of what we have for the greater good, or for HaShem; however we work through our own theology or lack of it.  The world is also designed to work best when what we give up something that is pure and unblemished (not our leftovers), that is acceptable, even desirable, so that we ourselves live our lives as acceptable, desirable members of our society, and HaShem’s creation, which most definitely does not revolve around any of us individually.

One exception to the rule of leftovers, is of course, ridding our households of hametz.  In many shuls food barrels are put out so that rather than eating up everything left, we take all the food we have and give it to those who are less fortunate.

Selling our hametz is good.

Giving away our hametz so that others can benefit from it, is better.

Recognizing that we are obligated to give of ourselves to help others, is best.

Its not by accident that details of sacrificing occur in the homestretch of Pesach preparation.

Shabbat Shalom

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Pesach is coming – so are the Pesach youtubes

Posted by rabbiart on March 18, 2010

This was so entertaining I had to post about it immediately.  Robots celebrating Pesach!!  Check it out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bgeX_8tBCY&feature=player_embedded

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Parshat VaYikra – Join the Conversation

Posted by rabbiart on March 16, 2010

For the traditionalist or the modern, the place to start studying this Parshah is with… of course… Rashi. Its always good to read the Rashi, but for this parshah he has no less than six separate comments on the opening verse. Even before we read the Rashi, we should emulate him and pay close attention to this very first verse. It has nine words, and three are verbs having to do with speech and conversation. That this is not accidental is made clear by also observing the second verse, which has a very common opening – “Speak to the Israelites and tell them”. The book of VaYikra could easily and simply opened with verse two in the normal fashion.  This signals us to pay  close attention to the opening verse which reads

וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר


HaShem called to Moshe, and spoke to him from the meeting tent,  saying.

In his opening comment, Rashi observes that any time HaShem communicates with the word call (kara) it is an expression of affection.  He brings Isaiah 6:3 into his comment, a verse we recognize from the Shacharit Kedushah.  In that verse, the seraphim called out to one another to proclaim the kedushah of HaShem.  Could Rashi be saying, or could we interpret his comment to mean that, just as the seraphim who call to one another in the presence of HaShem are all on equal standing, when HaShem calls to Moshe, that Moshe is (during the conversation) on an equal footing of HaShem?

After all, Moshe is the one Jew in history who spoke with HaShem face to face. And in several of Rashi’s comments on this verse, he states that only Moshe could hear HaShem, whose voice could not be heard outside of the Meeting Tent.  Comment on “to him”, Rashi  says that even haShems initial call to Moshe was not heard by anyone of the Israelites except Moshe.  So we see thatMoshe had a private audience with the divine presence, which after the episode of the spies, would not happen again for 38 years.

Finally, regarding the last word of the verse – “saying”, Rashi explains that Moshe should understand (because HaShem tells him) that HaShem is only speaking to Moshe for the sake of the Israelites.

Speech is what puts anything and everything into motion.  HaShem speaks, and the world is created.  HaShem speaks at Sinai, and the nation of Israel is created.  HaShem speaks to Moshe in the meeting tent, and national institutions of worship are created. Seraphim speak in heaven, and Jews on earth repeat their words in a conversation with the divine presence.

Vayikra describes – in painstaking detail – the workings of the sacrificial rite. The modern – especially the liberal – Jew often finds this parshah, and much of the book of VaYikra, inaccessible.  But in this opening verse we can see how rabbinic Judaism understood the sacrificial rite and was able to replace it with the prayer service we have to this day.  Because offering sacrifices is understood not as the killing of animals and the splashing of blood, but as a conversation between the people and our G-d.  Because what happens in the Meeting Tent, the Jerusalem Temple, and synagogues to this day is an encounter and a conversation between each of us and our G-d.  Because each of has – like Moshe – the ability to hear the call, to have the conversation with HaShem that is only for our ears, and to understand that we are able to have the conversation not on our own entitlement, but for the sake of all Israel.

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